Don and Reanne Douglass

“When we sold Fine Edge in 2004, we thought we’d retire, but soon realized we had our own stories to tell,” Réanne says.

Don Douglass and Réanne Hemingway-Douglass, owners of Cave Art Press, moved to Anacortes in 1999. During their fifty-year marriage they have owned three successful and innovative companies that grew because of the talents and expertise they brought to those businesses.

Don began exploring Northwest waters in 1949 as a youth. He has sailed the Inside Passage on everything from a 26-foot pleasure craft and commercial fishing boats to a Coast Guard icebreaker. Don holds a BSEE degree from California State University and a Masters in Business Economics from Claremont Graduate University. He is the author of Beyond Cape Horn: The Atlantic Voyages of Le Dauphin Amical, Sailing off the Anchor, and Exploring Vancouver Island's West Coast.

Réanne grew up in the Great Lakes region and Washington D.C. She attended Pomona College, Claremont Graduate University in Southern California, and the Université de Grenoble, France. After teaching French for twenty years, she joined her husband, Don Douglass, in their manufacturing and backpacking business. In the 1970s she and Don attempted to circumnavigate the Southern Hemisphere by sailboat. Réanne’s best-selling book, Cape Horn: One Man’s Dream, One Woman’s Nightmare, tells the story of their pitchpoling (when the stern pitches forward over the bow, upturning the boat) near Cape Horn. Réanne’s articles on bicycling, cruising and women’s issues have appeared in numerous outdoor magazines. She is also the author of The Shelburne Escape Line – Secret Rescues of Allied Aviators by the French Underground, The British Royal Navy and London’s MI-9, and Two Women Against the Wind: A Tierra del Fuego Bicycling Adventure.

Don and Réanne have co-authored the acclaimed Exploring Series: Exploring the Inside Passage to Alaska, Exploring the South Coast of British Columbia, Exploring the North Coast of British Columbia, and Exploring the San Juan and Gulf Islands. Don holds honorary membership in the International Association of Cape Horners. He has written several skiing and mountain biking guidebooks.

You’ve owned and operated several successful companies. What was your first company and what was the inspiration behind its development?

“In 1973, we formed our first company, Wilderness Group. It was inspired by our love and passion for the outdoors and our desire to spend time with our family—hiking the John Muir Trail and mountain biking in the Sierra Nevada,” Réanne says.

The Douglasses decided to share their experiences with others by leading bicycle tours. In order to promote the products that Wilderness Group offered, they sponsored fundraising events and bicycling races in the Eastern Sierras and along the Coast of Southern California.

“We soon realized that the equipment available for these rugged, lengthy trips was inadequate,” Don explains. “We wanted our clients to enjoy their adventures, not suffer through them. So we began manufacturing our own backpacks using state-of-the-art materials. Our packs were lighter, sturdier and designed so the weight of the pack rested on the hips rather than the shoulders.”

The Douglass’s brand, named Alpenlite, soon included school backpacks and packs for bicycles. Next came Plumline, a line of lightweight, waterproof clothing. They sold their products to Eddie Bauer, REI, and LL Bean. But manufacturing equipment wasn’t enough of a challenge, so what followed was a writing and publishing company, Fine Edge Productions, which produced mountain biking guidebooks, such as: Mountain Biking Southern California’s Best 100 Trails, Mountain Biking Northern California’s Best 100 Trails, and Mountain Biking the Coast Range and Cleveland National Forest, and several others. Soon after, they had more than twenty authors writing for them.

“Wilderness Group grew exponentially and in 1988 we sold it and began our life of boating,” Don says.

What was the key to your success?

“Don was great at coming up with new, innovative ideas and knowing how to design lasting products. He has a head for business and marketing,” Réanne says. “We spent time learning and discovering what was needed to make our ventures successful. We attended tradeshows, spoke to experts, asked questions, and hired great people.”

“Réanne has always been great with people so she was in charge of hiring and training our personnel,” Don says.

“When we sold Fine Edge in 2004, we thought we’d retire, but soon realized we had our own stories to tell,” Réanne says. “We went back into the publishing business in 2013 and started Cave Art Press. We began by writing and publishing our own books, and soon received submissions from other authors. Our business is growing, and we have a staff of writers and editors, and a marketing team. This year we’re releasing our first nature guidebook, Common Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Pacific Coast: A Beginner’s Guide to Identifying Dragonflies and Damselflies, by Jim Walker.

Don and Réanne have sailed the Pacific Coast, and the Inside Passage from Vancouver Island to Southeast Alaska numerous times. To assist other sailors, they published very detailed cruising guides, which are still in print today and selling well from Fine Edge Nautical Publishers. Their sailing adventures have also taken them around Cape Horn, which led to Réanne’s bestselling book, Cape Horn: One Man’s Dream, One Woman’s Nightmare, published in 1994 and updated in 2004. Almost twenty years after Cape Horn was released, Don published his sequel, Beyond Cape Horn, which tells of his continued adventure across the Atlantic to South Africa and back home to Los Angeles.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of working together in your own business?

“One of the best things about owning our own business and working together is that we can make decisions, and make things happen, quickly,” Don says.

“We don’t always agree,” laughs Réanne, “but we work things out until we do.”

Do you have any advice for couples planning on going into business together?

“It’s so important that both are passionate about developing and succeeding in the business you’ve chosen,” Réanne says. “But you also have to be careful and not get too wrapped up in your work. You can’t forget to take some time for yourself and your family.”

“My advice,” says Don, “is to have excellent accounting abilities and informational systems, and to make sure you don’t get in over your head. We developed our businesses on good sense without relying on financial loans. We made money and put the money back into the businesses. It’s been a wild ride. If we had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. Réanne and I have amassed a lifetime of adventures and experiences.”

The Douglasses were interviewed by Kathleen Kaska, marketing director for Cave Art Press. Kathleen is the author of the Sydney Lockhart mystery series and the Classic Triviography mystery series. Her most notable work is The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story. Her new mystery, Run Dog Run (Black Opal Books), is scheduled for release in March.

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Karla Locke
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